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  • Alyssa Abrahamson

What Is Healthism and Why Is It Problematic?

In our society, it’s common to equate body size to worthiness, label people who run marathons as disciplined and virtuous and to label people who are overweight as lazy. Sadly, our culture judges others according to their health and lifestyle choices. 

This is referred to as Healthism, the belief that there is a “right” or “moral” way in the pursuit of health.

The term healthism was coined by American economist Richard Crawford in a 1980 paper for the International Journal of Health Services. He considers healthism as problematic and defines it as “the preoccupation with personal health as a primary matter of moral obligation.” 

He viewed health as political, acknowledging the many factors that contribute to health including culture, poverty, gender, access to health care, environment, discrimination and oppression such as racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, and weight stigma. 

Healthism is a systemic issue embedded in our culture, and it’s sometimes difficult to see when we're doing it or experiencing it. 

  • Viewing fitness and weight loss through a lens of willpower

  • Commenting on other people’s body shapes and weight

  • Comments such as, “Should you really be eating that?” or “I'm just worried about your health.”

  • Viewing certain foods as good vs bad

  • Morally judging yourself such as, “I can’t eat that, I’m being good today.”

How can we shift away from healthism?

  • Confront your bias

How are you being judgmental with body, food choices, exercise? Where did this belief stem from? Does your perception of other people’s health determine how you treat them? Why or why not?

  • Health is not a moral obligation 

Achieving health is complex and you have not failed if you have health challenges. 

  • Food does not have morality 

There are no “good” or “bad” foods. You are not “good” for eating broccoli. You are not “bad” for eating french fries. 

  • Practice self-compassion

Learning to befriend yourself and practice self-compassion is integral as you navigate and define your own health journey. 

Challenging our beliefs and biases around health can help bring us to a more inclusive, empathetic and compassionate place. This helps foster mindfulness and slowly encourages an end to healthism.

If you're interested in learning more about working with me for 1:1 nutrition and health coaching to help you improve your relationship with food, your body, and cultivating mindfulness in your lifestyle choices, ​email me and let’s talk​.

Love, Your Wellness Coach,


P.S. Listen to episode 181, “​What Is Healthism and Why Is It Problematic?

June 12, 2024


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